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Borrowdale, Cumberland

Historical Description

Borrowdale, a parish, late a chapelry, in the ancient parish of Crosthwaite, Cumberland. It lies 2½ miles S by W of Keswick railway station, and 14 NW of Windermere, and contains the hamlets of Rosthwaite, Grange, Watendlath, Stonethwaite, Seatoller, Longthwaite, Thornythwaite, and Scathwaite. Area, 16,666 acres; population, 506. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Carlisle; value, £124. Patron, the Vicar of Crosthwaite. The church stands near Rosthwaite, and was rebuilt in 1824. Another church, of later erection, stands at Grange, and is served by the incumbent of Borrowdale at a salary of £28 per annum. There is a Wesleyan chapel at Grange. The vale commences in three heads, Stonethwaite, Seathewaite, and Borrowdale-Haws, coining down from the mountain passes out of Langdale, Wastdale, and Buttermere; is overhung at the convergence of these by the massive mountain range of Glaramara, and descends thence, between lofty flanks, northward to the head of Derwent Water. The low grounds or bottoms of it have much diversity of width and contour, but comprise about 2000 acres of good laud, chiefly disposed in pasture. " The mountains and hills around it have many outhenes of base, form, and summit, but generally are so bold in character, so cloven with ravines, and so strikingly grouped together as to form a series of imposing pictures. The depressions among them vary from gorge to glen, and from rocky mountain defile to green cultivated valley; and the lower parts, both bottom and slope, show much diversity of breadth and colour, rock and wood, wild nature and ornate culture." Two main rivulets from the Longstrath and Scathwaite valleys form the upper Derwent, which enters Derwent-water Lake near the Lodne Hotel. Castle Crag, a lofty, wooded, and almost isolated eminence adjoining the stream near the foot, commands a glorious view of all the vale; was the site of successively a Roman camp, a Saxon fortalice, and a monastic castle, to command the pass toward the mountains; and has yielded Roman relics, which are preserved in Keswick Museum. The Bowder Stone, at the foot of a precipice, opposite Castle Crag, is a mass of fallen rock, 62 feet long, 36 feet high, and 84 feet in circumference, with outline resembling that of a ship upon its keel. Slate quarrying is the great industry. Borrowdale was an appanage of Furness Abbey. Grange was the granary of the monks, and the deposit of a small salt spring, which enters the lake near here, was also stored there. The Black Lead Mine Mountain, on a flank of the Seathwaite head-vale, rises to the height of about 2000 feet, and is famous for a plumbago mine and a group of yew trees. The yew trees, of which two only now remain, are very old, amid a sheet of copsewood. Wordsworth, after noting a famous yew in Lorton, says-

"Worthier still of note
Are those fraternal four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove.
Huge trunks' beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose, deck'd
With unrejoicing berries, ghostly shapes
May meet at noontide-Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight, Death the skeleton,
And Time the shadow-there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple, scatter'd o'er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or In mute repose
To lie and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara's inmost caves."

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyCumberland 
Civil parishCrosthwaite 
Poor Law unionCockermouth 
WardAllerdale above Derwent 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The registers of baptisms and burials date from 1775; and of marriages from 1865.


Church of England

Borrowdale Church (parish church)

The church, midway between the hamlets of Bosthwaite and Stonethwaite, is a building of stone, in a plain Gothic style, with a chancel added in 1873, at a cost of £730, and consists of chancel, nave, porch and a turret containing one bell: the east window is a lancet one of three lights of stained glass, and there are 260 sittings.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Borrowdale from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cumberland is available to browse.

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Langthwake or Longthwaite

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Cumberland, 1615 is available on the Heraldry page.